Fans had begun to gather at SM Mall of Asia (MOA) Atrium and SM City North Edsa for Penshoppe’s Fan Conference 2013, but Thai actors and models Mario Maurer and Baifern Pimchanok were still miles away, sitting in Edsa Shangri-La Manila’s Mactan Room.
Thai-German heartthrob Mario is no stranger to the Philippines. An endorser of Penshoppe since 2011, he has been in the country a number of times, headlining Penshoppe’s 2011 Fan Conference, making runway appearances at Philippine Fashion Week, and filming “Suddenly It’s Magic,” his Star Cinema movie with Erich Gonzales.
Although Baifern had never set foot here until that weekend, she already had a huge local fan base, thanks to “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” her film with Mario which became a huge hit in Thailand. ABS-CBN aired the Tagalog-dubbed version of the sweet rom-com, winning the hearts of Filipinos, many of them pledging love and devotion to the actors who played Nam and P’shone.
Baifern also had a guest role in “Suddenly It’s Magic,” as the on-screen partner and ex-girlfriend of Mario’s character Marcus.
Fans saw the two together again when Baifern also became a Penshoppe endorser in 2012, joining a lineup that now includes Mario, One Direction, and Hollywood stars Ian Somerhalder, Nina Dobrev and Joshua Bowman.
Mario and Baifern shot their campaign for the brand in Bangkok last year and then had their own shoots this year—Mario in Los Angeles and Baifern in Bangkok.
“They represent the brand really well. They embody that youthful energy of a boy and girl next door while staying true to their fashion sense,” Penshoppe brand director Jeff Bascon said.
Last Sunday, Filipino fans finally had the chance to see Mario and Baifern reunited and in the flesh—they were headlining Penshoppe’s Fan Conference at SM MOA and North Edsa.
Jeff said, “We wanted the Filipino people to see them together. I know everyone’s been wanting to do so after they watched ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ and saw them in Penshoppe’s campaign.”
A few hours before the fan con, Inquirer Super sat down with Mario and Baifern (and her translator) to talk about Penshoppe, their movies, their fans and the secrets they can spill about each other.
Mario, what do you remember most from your previous trips to the Philippines?
Mario: Besides the people—because I went to Ilocos for the movie for quite some time, like two … three weeks, I remember the seaside was very beautiful … I’ve never been to Palawan.
But you want to go?
Mario: Yes, I want to go. What I remember is the other side of the Philippines, not only Manila.
Baifern, it’s your first time here. How has the trip been for you?
Baifern: I was very surprised to see so many fans at the airport. I’ve only had one movie shown here, ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love,’ and that was three years ago, so it was such a happy surprise that there were so many fans and that I’ve become part of such a big brand like Penshoppe.
How does it feel to be part of the Penshoppe family?
Mario: It feels great. I’m very happy. It’s nice to work with Penshoppe again.
Baifern: I’m really happy to be part of the Penshoppe family and I feel honored to be part of such a big and popular brand.
What do you like about the brand?
Mario: Penshoppe has style that represents the Philippines and Filipinos. It’s suitable for all ages—for the young and for those who are a little bit older. And it’s cheap and the quality they give you is very nice.
Baifern: Penshoppe clothing is easy to mix and match. In terms of price range, it’s very affordable. You can wear it on different occasions. The casual wear is really nice and I can wear it often.
Do you have favorite pieces from Penshoppe?
Mario: Yes, of course, many pieces. Like right now, I’m wearing this denim shirt. I like denim very much. Penshoppe has Denim Lab, the line of jeans they created, and even their trousers, they have many styles. It fits many people. We all have different styles, so it’s nice that they make many styles.
Baifern: I love almost everything, but for this collection I loved the shoes and the slippers, they’re really comfortable and nice.
Describe your personal style.
Mario: I like denim. I can wear it all the time and I don’t have to care if it’s going to be dirty or stuff like that. It’s not like wearing regular pants. I used to wear very big shirts because I used to dress very hip-hop, but now I wear smaller shirts.
Baifern: I like to wear comfortable clothes that are easy to mix and match and that are appropriate for the places that I go to.
Is there anything you wouldn’t wear?
Mario: Something that’s too colorful like a purple shirt.
You don’t like purple?
Mario: I like purple, but for me it’s easier to pick dark shirts, white shirts, denim shirts.
Baifern: I’m very adventurous with my outfits. I’m open to try everything, but what I wear has to be suitable for different occasions.
Tell us about Pee Mak. You had the premiere here last night, right?
Mario: Yes. It’s not just horror. It’s horror, comedy and it’s romantic, too.
Did you have fun filming it?
Mario: It was a lot of fun but I was also very tired because it’s quite hard. It’s a horror movie so we have to start in the evening, we would shoot at six in the evening and finish at six in the morning every time.
When did you realize you wanted to be an actor?
I never wanted to be an actor. In the beginning, I just wanted money. It’s true, I just wanted to make money to buy a skateboard, that’s all.
And that’s why you made that first film, ‘The Love of Siam’?
That was a risky role for a first-timer. What made you decide to do it?
I believed in the director. The movie was a very big project and the casting people were trying to find this guy and they couldn’t find him. I went there and they told me that in the role, I had to kiss a man. I told my mom and she talked to the director, “why my son has to kiss a man.”
How old were you then?
I was only 18. So the director told my mom the story and she understood. She said it’s not a gay movie, it’s more than that. And so my mom said go.
“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was such a fun movie. Did you enjoy your transformation in the film?
Baifern: I actually liked myself in the movie before I transformed from such a girl-next-door who was not so pretty but cute (laughs) to when I grew up and pursued a career. I liked that part. I was so young then, I could be myself and I had fun shooting the movie.
We’ve seen you in different roles. Which of them can you relate to the most? Is it Marcus in your Filipino movie?
Mario: Marcus is quite close because he’s an actor, but it’s still challenging for me because I had to speak English, Tagalog and Taglish.
Do you still remember any Tagalog words?
Mario: I remember a lot of words, good and bad.
What’s your dream role?
Mario: I don’t have a dream role … When I have a script coming, I will read it and if I believe in it and I think I can do something with it, then I’ll do it.
Baifern: I started my career not so long ago so I try to have a feel of different roles. In the future, if I have the chance, I would love to try more and more different roles.
Which do you enjoy more—TV or movies?
Baifern: I prefer movies. I like the attention to detail, the little details, the lighting, the different camera angles, the colors. I like that.
Mario, we’ve heard you talk about your Filipino best friend. How does he feel about your fame in the Philippines?
Mario: He got shocked. He never thought I’d be famous in his country.
Does he get to come here?
Mario: Yes, he gets to come here but he doesn’t speak Tagalog because he grew up there (in the United States). But he really looks like a Filipino. He was shocked. He still tells me he never thought I’d be famous in his country.
What’s it like working with each other?
Mario: It’s very nice working with Baifern. It was a very good moment. The movie was a very big surprise. Working with her was very good. The movie was a success because of her, too, because of how she performed. It was like she had two characters.
Baifern: Mario already had his first movie, “The Love of Siam,” so he was already very popular. I was very new. I was very impressed by how nice he was. He was very helpful. Even though in certain scenes he was very, very tired, even if he didn’t have to be in front of the camera, he would stay just to be there so I can keep my emotions going and keep the feel and emotions of the whole scene.
What’s a secret about Baifern that you can tell us?
Mario: I hear that she listens to very strange songs. (Laughs)
Baifern: I hate you.
Mario: It’s not strange but if you compare it to other teenagers or other people the same age as her, like us, we wouldn’t listen to this kind of songs.
What kind? Old songs?
Mario: Old songs, like the ones grandma is listening to. (Laughs) She really likes that.
It’s your turn, Baifern, what can you tell us about Mario?
Baifern: I have nothing to say about Mario but—big but—Mario always looks sleepy. When we were shooting “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” before every scene, when I turn to Mario, he looked like he’s going to fall asleep anytime, any moment.
Mario: I just have to send some kind of emotion to her, you know, sleepy emotion. (Laughs)
What are you passionate about?
Mario: My passion is cars.
Vintage cars, right? How many do you have now?
Mario: Yes. I have two. I built them and sometimes, when we have to change the color, I take care of it, too.
You drive them around Bangkok?
Baifern, what are you passionate about?
Baifern: I’m really into dogs. I have two at home, a Siberian husky and labrador.
How did fame change your life?
Mario: It didn’t change me but it changed my lifestyle. When I go out, like when I go to the shopping mall with my friends, people recognize me. They’re my fans, they watch my movies, people will take pictures. But I don’t feel uncomfortable. I think of it in a positive way. They’re my fans and it’s good to have fans. They tell me, “I like you in this character very much,” or “you inspire me,” something like that. I’m very happy to hear that.
Baifern: It changed my lifestyle. I have to be a lot more careful about what I want to do because I’ve become a role model now. I have to think before I do certain things so I wouldn’t be a bad role model.
What do you do for fun?
Mario: I clean my cars, wax them and do everything I can do with them.
Baifern: I spend time with my friends and watch movies. Even going to the university is a lot of fun because apart from going to school, I get to hang out with friends.
What’s the craziest thing a fan has done to get your attention?
Mario: There are many.
OK, I want stories.
Mario: A very crazy one?
Mario: One time, I was in the toilet, I was going to change my shirt. He’s up there, in the room next to me, with a camera.
Where was this?
Mario: In Bangkok.
What did you do?
Mario: I ran after him.
And what did he do?
Mario: I couldn’t follow him. I think he went under a car. It’s OK, he can see me naked. He can post it, up to him.
Was he able to take a picture?
Mario: I don’t know. But there are no pictures coming out.
What about Baifern?
Baifern: This was actually Mario’s fan. It’s an experience to remember. When we were shooting “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” there were so many fans at the location screaming for Mario. One of the fans asked who the lead actress was. She spotted me in the scene where I had dark [makeup on] and she said right in my face, “Oh my God, is that the lead actress? She’s so not beautiful. I’m even more beautiful than her!” (Laughs)
You were both in “Suddenly It’s Magic.” Would you like to do another Filipino film?
Mario: Yes, of course. I’m open to it.
Baifern: Yes, definitely. I promise to go back and practice my English for the next project.
Are you excited about the Penshoppe fan conference?
Mario: Yes, I’m excited because they told me there are many fans coming. It’s great this time because Baifern is here, too, and I know that Filipinos really liked the movie “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”
Baifern: I’m very excited and a little nervous because it’s my first time here. I can’t wait to see the fans. We really want to thank Penshoppe for bringing Mario back to see his fans and for bringing me here for the first time to finally get the chance to meet my fans here.